10 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Kwatakabva Mitunhu' - Old Wine, New Bottle

WHEN looking at Alick Macheso's latest release, "Kwatakabva Mitunhu (Kure Kwekure)", there are two things that should matter - is there growth and what value does the album give to his career.

It would also be of great help to look at the evolving sungura genre that has seen various artistes bringing in and borrowing even discarding the basic tenets of the beat.

Diehard fans, just like church-goers and political supporters, will not care much about the two facts stated above.

This is Macheso's ninth album in a career spanning 11 years. Considering this, a seasoned musician such as Macheso should show a lot of maturity in both lyrical content and instrumentals.

It's needless to say that Macheso has established himself and his music through the dominating bassline that carries the day in almost every one of his songs.

It should also be noted that in the history of sungura, Macheso pushed forward the bassline unlike any other sungura artiste.

He has also established the loud and hard vocals which compete just as much with the heavy beat dominated by the bass guitar.

It is through this that Macheso created his own distinct beat which has also been admired and emulated by many especially every sungura start-up artiste.

Of late and with his last three albums, Macheso has slowly gone back into history to take one or two distinct features to spice up his music.

This is very evident on his latest album especially track six, Cynthia, where the beat is laid back reminiscent of the 70s when chachacha was the in-thing.

Although chachacha is considered the cradle of rhumba music, it died slowly when Congolese rhumba artistes took up new features thereby changing the beat from the slow absorbing beat to a fast-paced one.

The big bass which offered the beat its stead and placid atmosphere was replaced by a fast hard thumping bass guitar that had the courage to even lead the lead guitar.

In chachacha, the big bass guitar follows but in sungura especially Macheso's beat, the bass guitar can weave and wind around other guitar rhythms thereby creating a different beat altogether.

This is what Macheso brings in in Cynthia. It's a laid-back song that does not really fit into his Borrowdale dance style. In its hey days, chachacha went along with a dance known as sinjonjo.

That, too, is what he offers in Samasimba where the bass follows closely behind all the other instruments. One would refer to this as kanindo, the rhumba sub-genre that took over from chachacha music.

Unlike on "Cynthia", "Samasimba" has some pace and the beat is tighter. But "Cynthia" and "Macharangwanda" share the same laid-back trait in the first part before the bridges that get us back to typical Macheso.

Macheso first broke the sungura monotony with his 2005 album, "Ndezvashe-eh" when he brought in the chachacha improvisations.

Otherwise other tracks - "Zvipo", "Kutsvaga Chiremba" and "Chirimumaoko" - are just but typical Macheso and Orchestra Mberikwazvo.

The second factor that of lyrics is what should make any artiste stand up tall and different from others as well himself as in his past works.

During the late John Chibadura's time, some people said it appeared as if the musician had a failed relationship every week because most of his songs were about heartbreaks and divorces or fights with and against in-laws.

It should also be noted that on this album, Macheso has not risen above himself.

Although love makes the world go round, most musicians fail to come up with meaningful and lasting lyrics. In most cases, it becomes one song done in many slight ways.

"Cynthia" and "Macharangwanda", once again, prod the love path. In both songs, one partner leaves.

In "Cynthia" the girl leaves for studies abroad while in "Macharangwanda", a man abandons his pregnant girlfriend.

So what is knew here apart from the slogan in "Cynthia": "pano paita chibhora chakabatana kunge chibhodhoro chisingavhinze . . .?"

"Zvipo (talents)", "Kutsvaga Chiremba (success through hard work)" and "Samasimba (divine intervention)" all carry similar themes and/or lines to previous songs.

The lyrical divide between "Samasimba" and "Mwari weNyasha" is small and that too can be said about "Amai vaRubhi" and "Monalisa".

This lyrical bankruptcy is evident in his other previous songs - "Madhawu", "Petunia", "Teererai", "Shedia", "Kunyarara Zvavo" and "Amakebhoyi".

Of course, Macheso diehard fans will find this latest exactly as they found and enjoyed his previous works for their rich instrumentals regardless of the lyrical bankruptcy.

Wonder Guchu is former arts and entertainment editor as well as deputy news editor of The Herald. He is currently based in Namibia, where he is founder and deputy editor of a Windhoek business weekly, The Villager newspaper. He is a music blogger, award-winning author and playwright and columnist for the Southern Times.

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